ORLANDO, Fla. – The natural hairstyle of a 12-year-old Florida girl has sparked a controversy at her private Christian school, as educators threatened to expel the child unless she gets her “puffy do” under control.
Vanessa VanDyke, who is black, is a student at Faith Christian Academy in Orlando, and she says teasing from bullies prompted her to seek protection from administrators.
“There have been bullies in the school,” her mother, Sabrina Kent, told WKMG-TV. “There have been people teasing her about her hair, and it seems to me that [school officials are] blaming her.”
VanDyke, who has a love for playing the violin, also has a love for her signature hairstyle.
“It just says that I’m unique,” Vanessa said. “First of all, it’s puffy and I like it that way. I know people will tease me about it because it’s not straight. I don’t fit in.”
“I’m depressed about leaving my friends and people that I’ve known for a while, but I’d rather have that than the principals and administrators picking on me and saying that I should change my hair,” the girl added.
There is a dress code at Faith Christian Academy, and it does contain regulations about how students can sport their hair.
According to the handbook, "Hair must be a natural color and must not be a distraction." It also provides examples that include, but are not limited to, mohawks, shaved designs and rat tails.
The school sent an email to WKMG saying, "We're not asking her to put products in her hair or cut her hair. We're asking her to style her hair within the guidelines according to the school handbook."
"A distraction to one person is not a distraction to another," said Sabrina Kent. "You can have a kid come in with pimples on his face. Are you going to call that a distraction?"
She was firm in her resolve not to back down to the threat her daughter would be expelled.
"I'm going to fight for my daughter," Kent said. "If she wants her hair like that, she will keep her hair like that. There are people out there who may think that natural hair is not appropriate. She is beautiful the way she is."
Monday night's television report apparently had an impact on Faith Christian Academy, as WKMG reports school officials backed down on the expulsion threat on Tuesday. While the school is not demanding Vanessa cut her hair, they are still asking her to style it differently.